The Colorado Rapids dropped a hard-fought 2-1 decision against New York City FC on Saturday evening but according to Rapids head coach Conor Casey, the refereeing crew erred in awarding NYCFC's game-winning goal in the 83rd minute.
On the play, NYCFC midfielder Maxi Moralez carried the ball just over the halfway line, then launched a ball over the top to Ronald Matarrita. Rapids center back Lalas Abubakar was just able to get a head on it to break up the play, but the ball fell to Alexandru Mitrita, who took a touch to set himself up before curling a shot from distance past Clint Irwin in the Colorado goal.
According to Casey, the officials missed an offside call on Matarrita on the initial pass from Moralez.
"I saw a long ball with a player offsides," Casey said in his postgame comments. "Lalas has to deal with a header and then the ball falls to somebody else and no offside is called."
Irwin, who replaced injured starting goalkeeper Tim Howard just before halftime, also weighed in on the call.
"For me as a goalkeeper I probably had the worst angle for any offside call because of where I'm at," he said. "But a lot of guys were saying as they were coming off that they thought that [Matarrita] was behind the play and challenging Lalas for the ball and if that's the case, it should be offside because Lalas has to play it and head it. From there they pick up a second ball and are able to get a good shot off."
The game-winner and the Howard injury were two of a handful of moments in the game that Casey felt didn't go their way, the most notable other one being the 33rd-minute red card to Rapids midfielder Sebastian Anderson. The 16-year-old Homegrown signing, making just his fifth MLS appearance, had earlier bagged his first pro goal to give Colorado the lead, but saw red after a studs-up lunge on Matarrita resulted in center ref Chris Penso reaching for his back pocket without hesitation.
"He's unlucky on the red card," Casey said of Anderson's ejection. "It's a rash, very quick call on a 16-year-old that's nicked a player. I thought he was very good. Unlucky that he gets sent off. Obviously, with a goal that's great for him. A 16-year old scoring 20 minutes into the game is very impressive."
Despite the adversity they faced, Casey – who has overseen a mini-resurgence for the Rapids since taking over as interim head coach on May 1 – was happy with how his charges battled.
"Given the fact of the enormous discrepancies in calls, the fact that we were still able to battle away and get chances in the end, I'm just so extremely proud of this group of players."
He later added: "You can tell this team is together, they're fighting for each other. These guys believe in each other. They fought till the very last minute and we were still close to getting a point in the end. So [I'm] really proud of them."